Sat, Sep 01, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Strike continues over unpaid wages

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Employees of the Hualong Textile Co hold up signs and protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday against the company because of a long-running labor dispute.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-jen (吳育仁) and the Hualon Corp Union yesterday called on the government to immediately intervene in the Hualong labor dispute case to protect workers’ rights.

Wu’s call came a day after Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳怡臻) made a similar plea for the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to intervene in the case.

“If the government stays out of the dispute, it will never be resolved,” Wu Yu-jen said yesterday. “The CLA always talks about how much it has done for laborers, but if they don’t help out this time, no one will believe it.”

Wu Yu-jen, who used to be an academic specializing in labor relations, said that another reason the government should intervene is because labor authorities have failed to ensure that employers are maintaining regular deposits for retirement payouts, as stipulated in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

The dispute began about 10 years ago when Hualong management asked employees to accept lower salaries, saying the company was suffering amid a serious financial crisis.

The situation worsened last year, when the company began to fall into arrears, with some employees being owed months of back wages. The workers were then offered an opportunity to transfer to Fung An Textile Co — another textile company run by Hualong — on the condition they first give up all accumulated annuity for retirement payouts.

Angered by their situation, around 400 workers at Hualon’s main factory in Miaoli County’s Toufen Township (頭份) decided to launch a strike that is still ongoing.

Thus far, Hualon owes its employees more than NT$260 million (US$8.6 million) in back wages and has said it is only able to pay NT$130 million at the most.

“I hereby call on the CLA to make up for the shortfall — NT$130 million — with the employment stability fund which is meant to provide protection for workers,” Wu Yu-jen said. “This doesn’t mean that the employer can simply get away with it. After paying NT$130 million to Hualon workers on behalf of the employer, the CLA should then should demand the employer repay the cash.”

Yeh Tzu-ching (葉紫慶), a representative from Hualon Corp Union, agreed with the proposal, but added that relevant laws must be amended so that workers will not be asked to repay the money in the future, as happened to laid-off workers from Lien-fu Textile Co.

Fifteen years ago, when Lien-fu closed for business and the council provided retirement payouts to laid-off workers as loans, it told them that they would not be asked to repay the money and that the council would get the money back from their employer.

However, all Lien-fu’s former employees received court orders to repay the money earlier this year.

Wu Yu-jen promised his proposal would be different.

“What the CLA gave Lien-fu employees were loans, but I will make sure that Hualong workers will not get the money as loans if the council accept my proposal,” he said.

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